Thursday, 15 May 2014

“How can I know better my EAL students?”

Throughout history the way learners acquire the foreign languages and being able to reproduce it orally and in a written form, were and still are a topic of research. As Laufer M.(2000: 58) points out  “Theories of the nature of language, and of how people  learn languages, have always been of concern  not only to those engaged in theoretical study, but also to languages teachers and materials writers”.
So, in my view since the Grammar Translation Method, one method that favors the English language acquisition effectively is the Communicative Approach because it takes as a main factor the reality of communication, how it takes place outside the classroom and also, the reality of learners as they exist outside and inside the classroom. Learners acquire and develop the language through different communicative activities that allow them mainly to improve the oral skills. Also, I as a teacher should assume a daily responsibility for determining and responding to learner language needs playing the role of a facilitator of the content and allowing my students to be the center of the learning process, being the main focus of the attention.

As to my learners language needs, through the revision of my students’ files and their observation in class, I found out that the most of my students needs are academic. One of the reasons is that they are not native English speakers and the other is that most of them had never been exposed to the language before, so the lack of linguistic skills in English is highly evident.

Another language need is related to cultural background and this is a relevant issue that should be taken in account, there is a girl from Japan who is afraid of speaking in front of the class. As it is known, teaching languages is not as easy as it seems to be; because in this learning cycle, not only skills are involved, but also sociocultural aspects. According to Byram, et al (-: 4) it has been widely recognized in the language teaching profession that learners need not just knowledge and skill in the grammar of a language but also the ability to use the language in socially and culturally appropriate ways.
It was a challenge from the beginning to get that particular student involved in every lesson, so I thought about different ways for getting to know her better. I did some research about the Japanese culture, family behavior, the way they express their emotions and feelings and I learned that the more I know about where my students come from, the easier my job will be.

Additionally, regarding students’ needs it was also a challenge to work with a student who has ADHD which demanded more differentiation strategies to be used and collaboration with the learning support teacher in charge of this student.

From my overall experience of planning and preparing the lesson, an aspect that facilitates active learning, and motivates and encourages the students towards the language acquisition is identifying students’ learning styles. Students process and learn new information in different ways, so, while designing the lesson and choosing the materials, I need to take this in mind.

In this sense, as I have visual learners in class, I have selected some DVDs resources related to the Unit topics. Using those DVD in class makes learning more interesting, dynamic and motivating. They allow learners to develop listening skills, to get new and relevant vocabulary and to reinforce grammatical structures.

Also, by means of some communicative activities like role plays, dialogues, dramatizations and games planned as part of the Unit, the students will acquire and develop not only the linguistic skills, but also their creativity because peer interaction increases motivation towards the language’s acquisition.

Another activity that I planned and carried out that my students enjoyed very much was to invite my students’ parents to make oral presentations in class about typical food and traditional recipes according to their home countries. From my view, this activity highly enhances the self-esteem of the kids and generates more motivation towards the acquisition of the language and their spontaneous participation in class. Students learn from this activity that if their parents are able to communicate their ideas with no fear of making mistakes, they can actively participate without thinking in mistakes or errors because what matters is communicating and improving daily the target language. In this sense, the classroom atmosphere is a significant issue that I took into account when I was planning the learning sessions, because it could favor or not learners’ acquisition of the language. It is important for me to create an encouraging classroom atmosphere where my students talk freely, sharing their own experiences without feeling frightened because of their pronunciation, nor proper use of grammatical structures or vocabulary. I, as a teacher, should provide any arrangements in class facilitating learners to feel nice and ready for every enjoyable English lesson.

To conclude, it can be said that the successfully acquirement of the target language does not depend only on a particular method or approach the educators follow to teach the content, but also on many factors, such as the teachers’ experience, background and knowledge regarding the language, the sociocultural context and the students’ needs, interest and learning styles. Additionally, in a successful English lesson, both students and teachers should learn from each other in a happy atmosphere that facilitate teachers come closer to students and know them better as students and as individual persons.


“Example of differentiation in EAL class”

Teaching English language to EAL students is not an easy issue when you should deal with students with different needs, learning styles, cultural backgrounds and level of English. Due to there are beginners, intermediate and advanced students, you as a teacher should spend more time organizing and planning how the differentiation process will carry out during the lesson; so all the pupils in your class will be encourage to participate and learn, no matter what level of English they have. 

When planning every single lesson, you should take in to account those issues
This is a lesson planning that shows how EAL teachers can differentiate the activities when having students with different English level in class.  

Session title
Healthy habits: Working with a song.

  • Decode sounds (th) and (s)
  • Reinforce vocabulary
  • Get new words related to the topic
  • Give opinions about health problems and healthy habits
  • Design a poster in groups of 4.

Learning objectives
Main learning objectives:
  • Give opinions about health problems and healthy habits mentioned through the song.
  • Analyze the song in order to answer some comprehension questions.

Additional Learning Objectives:
  • Work independently, in pairs and in groups of 4 students.      
  • Reinforce prior learning of the body parts

approx. 2 minutes
Warming up

Greet the students
Making a review about what students have been learning through the Unit.
-       Part of the body
-       Health problems
The board

The marker

Open questions
approx. 3 minutes

Match activity (individual work)
Task1: Match activity (based on a group of some difficult words).

Teacher will check the activity orally.

Lap top


Power Point

The teacher provides a group of words through a Match activity, for checking if the students already know the meaning of some difficult words mentioned in the song.
approx. 5 minutes

Direct teaching activity
(working individual)
Task2: Understanding activities only by listening to the song. (Differentiation presented)
The students will listen to the song in order to get a general understanding of it.
Then, in order to achieve some tasks, they will only listen to a fragment of a song.

Ø  Identify the health problems you hear through the song.

Ø  Copy the health problems you hear through the song.

Advanced students:
Ø  Complete the following sentences taken from the song.

The teacher walks around the class checking the students’ answers.

Extra piece of paper with the tasks according to the level of each student.

approx. 5 minutes

Direct teaching activity
(working in pairs)
Task3: Expressing opinions about the content of the song.

The students will listen to the song again without watching any images. Then, they will interact in pairs giving their own opinion about its content.
The teacher checks the activity orally.

Teacher: So, we can state that the song is about health problems and healthy habits.
Lap top


Power Point

DVD Squibs by Ignite Learning. Science multimedia for growing brains


approx. 10 minutes

Direct Teaching Activity
 (working individual)

Task5: Agree or disagree?
Analyze the suggestion given by the author in the first part of the song.
 “Washing your hands kills pathogens, so I think one good defence begins at the sink!”
Decoding sounds: th / s
(Saying words with those sounds)
The students will listen to the song, but this time, they will watch the images and also will read the lyrics. They will explain in their notebooks if they agree or disagree with that suggestion.

Lap top

Power Point

DVD Squibs by Ignite Learning. Science multimedia for growing brains
Jolly Phonics

approx. 15 minutes

Direct Teaching Activity
 (working in group)
Task6: A question for discussion.
What could happen if we don’t keep daily healthy habits like washing our hands?

Students answer that question orally.

Teacher asks: Do you know any other healthy habit?
The students will work in group of 4, discussing about this issue orally and they will start designing a poster based on those ideas. They will be working on a poster until Wednesday afternoon when they should present it in class.

These are some examples of healthy habits. (The teacher will give some time to students to think about the topic and write their own ideas, if any one needs some help, then, she will present the information below through a power point)
-       Wash your hands before eating
-       Eat healthy food
-       Practice sports
-       Don’t listen to very loud music
-       Don’t put your hands inside your mouth
-       Brush daily your teeth
-       Wash all vegetables and fruits
-       Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
-       Drink plenty of water or any natural juice
-       Get plenty of sleep
Colored card board
Markers (fine and broad tip)
Solid or white glue
Power Point (if the students need it as a support)

In each group of 4 students, there will be beginner,
intermediate and  advanced students working all together.

approx. 5 minutes

At the end of the lesson, each student will be provided with a Self Assessment sheet in order to reflect on what they learned during the lesson and their participation in class.

Self Assessment sheet about the lesson


Task: 1
     Match column A with column B
                A                                                                                    B
  1. vector                                                      a. anti-bacterial medication
  2. dangerous                                               b. harmful
  3. pathogen                                                 c. at risk
  4. antibiotic                                                  d. extend                       
  5. at stake                                                    e. a specific cause of disease  as a bacterium or virus
   6.   spread                                                      f. an organism that spreads  infection from 
                                                                             one person to another one. (Ex. Mosquito)

Task 2:
Understanding Activities only by listening to the song. (Differentiation presented)
(Beginner students)
1.    Identify the health problems you hear through the song. 
a)    backache
b)    earache

c)    cold  

d)    dengue

e)    flu 

(Intermediate students)

1.    Copy the health problems you hear through the song.

a)    ______________________


(Advanced students)
1.    Complete the following sentences taken from the song.

a)    They attack the ____________ cells that are inside of us.

b)    The ____________ ____________ is a virus, and so is _______ ________.

c)    But they _____________ be___________ with an ___________, that’s true.